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It’s not unusual for police officers to be filmed by people with cellphones during a traffic stop nowadays, but police throughout Lake County may be wearing body cameras to monitor interactions as soon as this fall in Round Lake Park, and other departments are not far behind.
From Round Lake Park to Round Lake and Mundelien to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, municipalities and their police departments are moving ahead with body cameras.
“This is definitely the wave of the future and something that’s needed,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said. “Body cameras are a type of evidence and the more evidence we have in any case the better.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner last week signed legislation that lays out the rules for police body cameras in Illinois, making it only the third state in the country to establish such rules, according to an Associated Press analysis. While it does not mandate body cameras, although there was legislation floated that would have done just that, it does specify how they will be worn, when they have to be turned on and how long the recordings must be kept as evidence.
It also established a grant program funded by a $5 addition to traffic tickets to help police departments buy the body cameras.
“They are going to be involved in every case, even misdemeanors,” Nerheim said. “You’re going to see footage on every single case.”
Nerheim said his office is working with the more than 40 police departments in Lake County on uniformity. If each department operated on a different system, that could pose a problem for his office, which would handle the recordings in court.
“It’s important we are part of the process,” he said.
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko said if everything goes as planned his department will be ready to roll out the body cameras by mid September.
“It’s logical we’re doing this,” he said, “We decided this was the way to go.”
The village has purchased 6 4RE in-car systems with panoramic HD cameras and 13 VISTA HD body-worn cameras that have adjustable lenses so officers can adjust them according to their height. The total cost was approximately $57,000, which also includes a server and needed software.
For Patrol Officer Donna O’Brien, the body camera, which uses industrial strength magnets to hold it in place, is a good thing.
“I prefer them,” she said, “It’s good to have one more form of evidence to back up the truth.”
“I also think it’s good tool for training. I can review how I walked up to a vehicle during a traffic stop or person and see how I might of done it differently,” or see something that may have put her in danger, but she didn’t realize it at the time, she said.
“It will keep me on my toes, but I always act professionally,” she said.
Filenko said the response of his officers has not been “why do we need them,” but “when are we getting them.”
“In my opinion this is going to become standard, it may even be mandatory eventually,” he said. He knew two years ago they were going to need new squad car videos and he thought of incorporating the body cameras with that new system.
“It’s still not going to replace the human eye,” he said, but in the worse-case scenario, an officer involved shooting, “the more video the better,” said Filenko, who is in charge of the Major Crime Task Force that is called in to investigate those shootings.
Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette said his mayor and trustees wanted to get ahead of the curve and be pro-active. “I’m proud of the board and the mayor for letting us do that,” he said of their purchase of 15 FirstVu HD cameras from Kansas-based Digital Ally, at a cost of $13,800.
“We feel it’s a good tool for the officers to put together a solid case,” he said, “and of course it would be used in allegations of misconduct. I think they are really good tools.”
Bigger departments have bigger problems with figuring out the financing, but the Waukegan Police Department is “aggressively” researching different models, according to Cmdr. Joe Florip.
“We need to see what will work best (for the 80 patrol officers and 20 patrol cars). We’re excited as an organization to get body cameras. We think it’s best for our community and the police department,” he said.
“It’s priceless when it comes to a citizen complaint. There’s nothing like pulling up a video,” he said, noting that sometimes they can do that now from dash cameras and sometimes residents see their actions in a different light.
The Lake County Chiefs Association, headed by Highland Park Chief Paul Schafer, said they are getting more inquiries from other chiefs about body cameras. There still needs to be a lot of policy work, such as how to handle Freedom of Information requests, obscuring juvenile or witness faces from the video and other issues and having the personnel able to do that.
“There’s a lot of implementation with this new technology that the chiefs are taking a look at,” he said. They plan to have it on their agenda for the September meeting.
Other departments like Round Lake Beach are just starting to look into it, partly because of the funding mechanism included in the bill the governor recently signed. For some departments it would be hard to afford and they want to make sure they get the right equipment.
“We want it done right the first time,” said Police Chief Dave Hare. But he believes they will benefit police and the community.
“Transparency is a good thing for the community and body camera play into that,” he said
Here are the top 13 criminal law cases from the Illinois court system for March 2016. The first 4 are from the Illinois Supreme Court. Number 4 was a victory for the defense at the lower level and the Illinois Supreme Court had something to say about that.
- People v. Burns
The “no-nights visits” rule is affirmed, can’t bring the sniffer dog to your front step for a little sniff action.
- People v. Bradford
Prosecution no longer allowed to overcharge an ordinary retail theft to a burglary.
- People v. Clark
Aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery without a firearm are not lesser-included offenses of aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery with a firearm.
- People v. Timmsen
Apparently, the police can stop you for trying to legally avoid a roadblock.
- People v. Abram
Officers approach defendant who was sitting in his car he then, to say the least, ensues in outright flight.
- People v. Smith
This trial judge was overruled; there is nothing unconstitutional about requesting citizen’s to roll up their sleeves.
- People v. Thompson
Some of the State’s remarks relied on questionable advocacy, but did not rise to the level of clear and obvious error.
- People v. Meuris
In a leaving the scene of an accident prosecution the State must not only prove that Defendant knew he was involved in an accident but also that another person was involved.
- People v. Weinke
Reviewing court says ASA exaggerated the severity of victim’s condition and misled the court as to the source and timing of her information in order to pressure the court into granting a quickie deposition.
- People v. Tayborn
Trial counsel was ineffective for not challenging defendant’s confession given without Miranda warnings.
- People v. Little
Cigarette break is not a sufficient amount of time to remove the taint of the original Miranda violation.
- People v. Gray
These drug officers were themselves charged with distributing narcotics and Defendant was not told about the investigation before he plead guilty to his own drug charges.
- People v. Fulton
In a charge of armed habitual criminal the same conviction can be used as one of the predicate offenses as well the predicate to the UUW Felony conviction that may be being used.
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Ben Baker had long been a thorn in the side of corrupt Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who framed the part-time drug dealer on a narcotics charge in retaliation for refusing to pay a protection payoff of $1,000, court records show.
While Baker was on bond awaiting trial in December 2005, he and his wife, Clarissa Glenn, were stopped by Watts and one of his team members. Once again, the officers claimed they found a bag of heroin in Baker’s car and tagged the couple with major felony drug charges, according to the court records.
Faced with up to 15 years in prison and frightened that their young children would be left without parents, the couple copped deals with prosecutors in order to spare Glenn from prison. Baker, though, had an additional two years tacked on to his sentence for the other drug case — a total of 14 years behind bars.
Now Baker and Glenn are seeking to have those guilty pleas thrown out, claiming in a court filing last week that Watts had planted the heroin — this time as retribution for blowing the whistle on him. Watts had been tipped off that Baker had gone to the Chicago police internal affairs division about his earlier shakedown, records show.
To buttress their claim, the couple has produced court records that show the judge who took their guilty pleas in September 2006 was already aware that Watts’ crew was under investigation, according to the petition filed in Cook County Criminal Court.
In fact, Judge Michael Toomin told the couple that if the allegations were ever proved, they could come back to court and he would gladly throw out their cases.
The court filing marks the latest fallout over the corrupt squad led by Watts, who in 2012 was charged along with one of his underlings, Officer Kallatt Mohammed, with shaking down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI informant. Both were convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
Baker was freed in January after serving more than a decade of his 14-year sentence. Cook County prosecutors agreed to drop the original drug charge against him after his lawyer, Joshua Tepfer, revealed dozens of pages of court and law enforcement records showing that police internal affairs had been aware as far back as the late 1990s of corruption allegations involving Watts’ team — yet failed to take them off the street.
At the time of Baker’s arrest, Watts and his entire crew also were the target of an ongoing FBI investigation, according to records uncovered by Tepfer, of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. One FBI report from September 2004 showed that an informant had told federal agents that Watts and other officers were routinely shaking down drug dealers for thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for police protection at the Ida B. Wells public housing complex.
But it wasn’t until five years later that agents were able to build a criminal case against Watts and Mohammed, based in part on the undercover work of two whistleblower officers, Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria.
Tepfer told the Tribune on Friday that the latest filing shows how Watts and his crew were able to terrorize a community for years with their illegal schemes, using their police powers to keep the largely poor and vulnerable people who lived in Ida B. Wells in line.
“These cases were brought by vindictive and corrupt police officers who were framing individuals for things that they did not do,” Tepfer said. “(Baker and Glenn) are likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to victims of the decadelong criminal enterprise headed by Sgt. Watts.”
The experience was particularly rough on Glenn, a churchgoing mother of three who had never been arrested before and has not been since, according to her lawyer, Jonathan Brayman.
“Every step of the way, Clarissa has told anyone who would listen that she and Ben were innocent,” he said.
According to the petition, Baker and Glenn were stopped by Watts and Officer Alvin Jones on Dec. 11, 2005. Jones claimed in police reports that as he walked up to the car he saw Glenn hand a clear plastic bag filled with heroin to Baker, who put it in the driver’s-side console.
But Baker and Glenn claimed Watts had pulled the bag out of his sleeve and placed it in the car after a search had turned up no drugs. Back at the Wentworth District police station, Jones and several other members of Watts’ team typed up a false report, adding officers as witnesses who weren’t even at the scene, the couple alleged.
Before the couple pleaded guilty, Judge Toomin acknowledged in court that he had been shown reports that indicated Watts’ crew had been under investigation by internal affairs and that a prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office’s public integrity unit was involved. But there had been no concrete evidence of wrongdoing and no move by prosecutors to drop the charges, so the judge said he couldn’t do anything with the information, according to a transcript.
“Let me say this to both of you,” Toomin told Baker and Glenn, according to a transcript. “There has not been sufficient showing to me that these are renegade police officers, that they are bad police, that they are outlaws.”
But, Toomin said, “police officers do get charged with doing things that are wrong, breaking the law.”
“If that should happen here in this case, I would have no hesitation,” the judge said. “I would toss out these convictions.”
A sweeping set of new regulations regarding police body cameras is aimed at addressing recent controversies over use of force and standardizing practices across the state.
Police departments would not be required to use the cameras, but now there will be statewide rules for those that do. Chiefly, officers will have to keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities but could turn them off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness. Intentionally turning off cameras outside the exceptions could result in a charge of official misconduct.
Recordings generally will not be subject to the state’s open records law, however, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.
To help pay for the body cameras, the state will charge an extra $5 fee on criminal and traffic offenses that result in a guilty plea or conviction. The money also will bolster an expanded training program that includes topics like use of force. In addition, the law bans the use of choke holds, creates a database of officers who have been fired or resigned because of misconduct and requires an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths. Also, a special prosecutor can be requested if there is an apparent conflict of interest.
SALT LAKE CITY — During her 10 years as a Utah state trooper, Lisa Steed built a reputation as an officer with a knack for nabbing drunken motorists in a state with a long tradition of teetotaling and some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws.
Steed used the uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.
Today, however, Steed is out of work, fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, and she — and her former superiors — are facing a lawsuit in which some of those she arrested allege she filed bogus DUI reports.
“If we don’t stand up to Lisa Steed or law enforcement, they just pull people over for whatever reason they want,” said attorney Michael Studebaker.
Steed declined to comment, but her attorney Greg Skordas said she denies the allegations. She is trying to get her job back.
The people snared by Steed say the arrests disrupted their lives and were costly to resolve.
Michael Choate, a now-retired aircraft logistics specialist at Hill Air Force Base, said he nearly lost his security clearance and job.
Steed stopped him because he was wearing a Halloween costume and booked him even though three breathalyzers tests showed no alcohol in his system. Choate said he spent $3,800 and had to take four days off of work to get his DUI charged dismissed.
The 49-page lawsuit includes two defendants, but Studebaker said dozens of others are lined up and willing to tell their stories. He said they are requesting the lawsuit be broadened into a class action lawsuit.
Every one of her DUI stops back to at least 2006 should be under suspicion, he said, adding that could be as many as 1,500 people.
The lawsuit, filed in December, also accuses the Utah Highway Patrol of ignoring Steed’s patterns of higher-than-normal DUI bookings and waited too long to take her off patrol. The agency declined to comment.
Steed joined the agency in 2002, and during her first five years, she earned a reputation as a hard-worker whose efficiency led to high arrest totals. By the time she ascended to trooper of the year in 2007, she was held up as one of the agency’s top stars.
In 2009, Steed became a member of the DUI squad. Her 400 DUI arrests that year were thought to be a state record, and more than double the number made by any other highway trooper. She earned special recognition at the state Capitol.
“With her training and experience, it’s second nature for her to find these people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” her DUI squad boss at the time, Lt. Steve Winward, told the Deseret News.
During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed said it was simply a “numbers game,” noting that one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you’re going to run into them,” she said.
Steed’s career, however, turned. In 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn’t know she was violating agency policy.
By April 2012, her credibility had come into question so much that a prosecutor said he would no longer prosecute DUIs if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.
In October, the Salt Lake Tribune obtained a memo written in May 2010 in which Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rob Nixon flagged Steed’s “pattern” of questionable DUI arrests. He wrote that the bulk of Steed’s arrestees had no signs of “impairing drugs” in their systems.
The memo said she based most of her arrests on signs of impairment such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors.
Steed was taken off road patrol in April 2012 and fired in November. She was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.
The lawsuit is based on two defendants: Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia.
Romero was stopped after Steed said he was swerving, according to the lawsuit. After Romero said he wasn’t drinking, Steed gave him a roadside sobriety test anyway. She booked him for DUI even though his blood alcohol content was 0.00. Charges were dismissed.
Tapia went to pick up her ex-husband, who had been drinking. Steed approached Tapia as she got out of her car at her house, saying Tapia had been speeding, the lawsuit said. Steed said she could smell alcohol, and Tapia told her it was coming from her ex-husband.
Tapia was arrested for a DUI; her ex-husband for public intoxication. Tapia’s blood test showed no alcohol. Charges were dropped.
Choate, who hopes to join the lawsuit, said the entire agency should be held responsible for the damage Steed caused to him and others. “They let her get away with it for a long time,” he said.